Yep. You just stumbled upon one of the most compelling counters to the we-simply-MUST-have-our-own-stadium argument. Fans claim games are magical, amazing experiences … inside a facility they claim will never work.
Well, ARE games a magical, amazing experience?
Yeah, kind of. The end-zone section is full of sweaty, energetic bodies, all hopped up on Guinness and Red Bull. They bounce, cheer and flail for 90 nonstop minutes in a way that's downright contagious. Sure, the chants are on the profane side. (My kids stopped counting F-bombs when they ran out of fingers and toes.) And when they throw things at the opposing team's goalie, it's embarrassing. But overall, it's an energetic scene you're not getting anywhere else in town.
So, if you know how awesome soccer is, can we just give the team every taxpayer cent we have?
Because I've actually studied a city and county budget before. I know that, regardless of how cool soccer is, we also have cops to pay, roads to pave and children and elderly folks who need services.
But the soccer proposal is only hotel taxes.
But my friends told me so.
Then you should get smarter friends. (Actually, that's not true. Dumb friends can be awesome to party with. Just don't let them craft your public-policy positions.) The city is using millions of tax dollars that have nothing to do with hotels. It's money that could pay for anything from cops to parks.
Why doesn't the soccer team build its own stadium?
Because professional sports in America are built on the backs of taxpayers. Team owners set up failed business models — with higher salaries than they can afford to pay. Then, instead of reworking that model (the way most business owners would), they ask taxpayers to bail them out. Politicians usually comply.
Well, if we're paying to make the deal happen, shouldn't we get a piece of the pie?
Yep. And that's what one brave soul on the county commission, Pete Clarke, has proposed. If taxpayers are going to invest, they should reap some of the profits.
Wait, but the stadium would be city-owned. The team would simply be tenants.
Sure. But we're only building the stadium because the team asked. If it was a true landlord-tenant relationship, the team would pay enough rent to fully finance the stadium costs — and wouldn't ask for things like naming rights and concession proceeds. This isn't a free-market deal.
So what should we do?
Well, we should combine the two stadium proposals. That said, I think the newest plan — about half-and-half private, public money — is the best pro-sports deal this town has hatched. So, if we can tweak it a bit more to cut taxpayers in on more of the revenues — treat them like the investors they are — we might just get a good deal.